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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"In conjunction of the World Biodiversity Day, MNS Kuching Branch and Borneo Highlands Resort launched the IBA (Important Bird Area) for Gunung Penrissen officiated by YB Dato' Dr. James Dawos, Deputy Minister of Tourism Malaysia."

ByAlan Rogers
WE have learned that generals and dictators do not always learn much from past history as Hitler showed in his disastrous attempted invasion of Russia. He paid no heed to Napoleon’s even greater campaign and aborted push towards Moscow, in winter too, a century before. However, much of modern meteorology has developed from war time experiences and necessity.
It was the Norwegians, Vilhelm Bjerknes and son Jacob, who can be credited as the founders of modern weather forecasting. In 1912, Vilhelm as professor of Meteorology — a new science then — at Leipzig University was persuaded by the Norwegian Arctic explorer Nansen to become professor of Geophysical Sciences at the newly founded Bergen University and to return to Norway.
Later in World War I (WWI), when weather ships were withdrawn from the North Atlantic Ocean because of u-boat activities, father and son Bjerknes identified temperate and polar air masses that converged to create a cyclone or depression or typhoon (low pressure areas), which have their own cycle from birth to decay. Such were the words used on the Western Front and the Eastern Front in WWI battles. The airmass fronts meet to battle for the weather at ground level. This model of the development of a cyclone from its inauguration to its death holds true in the 21st century and is easily observed now from meteorological satellite images.
During the blitzkrieg of major British cities in World War II RAF (Royal Air Force) fighters could not get into the air to intercept German bombers and were grounded by thick fog.
We know here in Kuching that very early morning fog becomes ‘burnt off’ by the sun by 9am. So to allow the fighters to take off, meteorologists devised petrol burners placed at intervals along runways. The heat produced at ground level caused the fog to clear and created a clear channel for take off. Having done their job, the pilots could not land as the fog banks again closed in, hence a number of pilots had to ditch in the English Channel — there to be rescued!
We know that fog like a cloud consists of millions of minute suspended water droplets held aloft by rising air. It was the research in Massachusetts in the mid- 1940s by Dr Irving Langmuir and Vincent Shaefer who discovered that by spraying or seeding clouds with pellets of solid carbon dioxide — dry ice — the water droplets were ‘fooled’ into condensing on the pellets and artificially created snow fell.
Within our clouds are natural condensation nuclei — particles of soot, volcanic dust, soil and salt. In temperate latitudes when cooled at a sub zero temperature the water droplets condense on the these nuclei and the latter grow in form until they become too heavy to be suspended and thus fall out as snow or rain.
It is recorded that the ancient Chinese and Leonardo de Vinci ‘pierced’ clouds, thinking that they were ‘bags of water’, by using fireworks. Purely by chance this sometimes worked for, unwittingly to them, the fireworks contained silver iodide acting like dry ice! It all depended on the temperatures near the cloud base which actually needed to be at -5 degrees Celsius for this to happen.
In tropical/equatorial latitudes there are few if any natural ice condensation nuclei amongst the water droplets in our clouds. In the 1950s in the semi- desert areas of Pakistan during periods of drought the farmers prayed to Lord for rain. Imans told them to go out and plough their salt encrusted fields. The farmers did just that and unwittingly released millions of salt particles rising in the heat to passing clouds. The salt particles acting as condensation nuclei absorbed the water droplets and through turbulence in the clouds the nuclei banged together and coalesced ... too heavy now to be suspended by up draughts and rain fell.
Take the same principle here in Sarawak. On the eve of 2006’s Independence Day Celebration, after a prolonged period of haze and before the King and the Prime Minister would witness the National Parade held here in Kuching, a Hercules aircraft of the Royal Malaysian Air Force took off at about 7.45pm from Kuching and seeded the clouds above with a fine spray of a saline solution.
Within three hours there was a tremendous downpour lasting another few hours. The pollutants in the air were washed out of the sky and the next morning witnessed a glorious parade for the thousands present. The RMAF (Royal Malaysian Air Force) is credited, with some of the most successful cloud seeding operations in the world, a high accolade indeed.
Norwegian Tor Bergeron and German Walthur Findeison together proposed the droplet coalescence theory in the late 1930s when war sadly intervened.
The 1920s saw a Japanese Professor Ooishi tracking high altitude balloon movements near Mt Fuji. The results of his findings were written in Japanese and later in Esperanto. Thus his findings were not understood yet he observed westerly tail winds at up to 240km per hour.

Why does an MAS or AirAsia flights take an hour less from London to Kuala Lumpur and an hour longer flying in the opposite direction? A flight from west to east saves the airline time and thus fuel ... sadly airfares do not reflect this. This is all because of jet streams first accurately recorded by Jerome Namias who investigated the comments of the B52 bomber pilot who dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima for he noted that flying from west to east his aircraft was moving faster than its air speed indicator could record. In 1945, Carl G Rossby, a German, coined the word Jet Stream. To visualise the jet stream think of a modern gymnast in the Olympic Games with a ribbon in her hand which she thrashes through the air in undulations and meanderings. Observe the path of the ribbon as it twists and twirls.
Jet streams have high speeds and are tubular in shape and meander around our planet as west to east flowing air currents at altitudes of 10,000 to 15,000 metres. These tubes of fast flowing air are 2,000 to 4,000 metres wide thousands of metres long. There are between two to three jet streams in each hemisphere and they lie over areas at much lower altitude of great temperature contrasts between, as in the northern hemisphere, cold air masses to the north and warm air masses to the south. The Polar Jet lies roughly at 40 to 60 degrees north of the Equator and is responsible for the rapidly moving cyclones hitting Europe and the west coasts of North America in the winter months. In the summer months this jet weakens providing anticyclonic patterns hence higher temperatures.
The westerly blowing Subtropical Jet lies between 30 degrees north and south of the Equator and is at its strongest over India. Undoubtedly this is one ofthe most powerful wind systems on earth and surprisingly does not affect the underlying weather as much as the Polar Jet. Add to this the third jet stream at about 9,100 metres high, which affects us and our monsoonal wind patterns seen as the Tropical Easterly Summer Jet in October to April and the Tropical Westerly Jet in May to September when it is at its strongest.
All long haul pilots receive meteorological briefings on the positions of the jet streams on their flight paths long before they appear with the rest of the flight crew whilst you sit patiently in the boarding gate lounge. Watch the airspeeds on the video screen on your next flight and observe how head or tail winds speeds can affect the time of your arrival.
The recent volcanic eruption in Iceland that last exploded in 1825 and began again on March 20, 2010 reaching an ash plume climax on April 14 highlighted the vulnerability of mankind to nature. Theplume over Europe was driven south-eastwards from Iceland by the Polar Front Jet Stream. Whilst costing airlines some US$400 million a day and boosting the hotel trade in Southeast Asia that is a small price to pay for our safety!
Wars have brought undue suffering and devastation to mankind yet we should be eternally grateful for the ensuing medical and meteorological advancements caused by war. More of our prospective university applicants should be encouraged to read Meteorology or Atmospheric Physics to later join Meteorological Services at home and abroad for there is much above our heads still to be explained in a relatively recently discovered science.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

International Biodiversity Day, 22 May 2010


HEROINE: This statue of legendary nurse Florence Nightingale can be found at Waterloo Place, Westminster, London
By Alan Rogers
AS HUMANS we are an intricate part of nature and many of our scientific discoveries often derive from the wars in our world.
We have experienced so many wars with losses of life to soldiers and undoubtedly even more civilians of so very many nations, yet many beneficial discoveries are the result of such conflicts.
Take for instance the Crimean War, when legendary nurse Florence Nightingale in the 1860s discovered a natural antiseptic plant, sphagnum moss, growing in temperate climate peat bogs which proved to be a substitute for lint in plugging bullet holes and sabre slashes. It worked.
I recently read in The Borneo Post about the Iban Trackers of the Sarawak Rangers during World War II and later during the Emergency.
I just wonder how many soldiers they saved with their local knowledge of healing medicinal plants ... now recognised and identified by medical experts internationally as a source of scientific development here in East Malaysia. That horrible barbed wire defensive measure, often used on the perimeters of our factories and land enclosures, was a product of the Boer Wars in 1900 to 1905. Rocket design in World War II led eventually to putting man on the moon some 30 plus years later We fly overseas in jet planes — aircraft were devised late in World War II but first came into military action in the Korean War, during the opening years of the 1950s.
The resulting travel is easier but we do leave large carbon footprints when we make these trips.
It was with great surprise when in 1941 a German Luftwaffe fighter pilot ran out of fuel and baled out to be arrested by six women of the Air Raid Precaution Wardens in the far South West of England.
He offered no resistance for they gave him a cup of tea whilst they were more concerned about his silk parachute, which they cut into six sections. Rumour has it at dire times in that war, they wore the best petticoats in Cornwall!
As from 1943, to replace unavailable Asian silk and hemp, parachutes in Britain and in Germany were made of nylon, a synthetic product invented by the Wallace Brothers at Dupont Chemicals in the US in 1935.
The starting point of the invasion of plastic into our lives and the changing of the oceans into gigantic garbage dumps. A young PhD student first suggested the demise of poly bags in shops in a small coastal town in the UK some four to five years ago. The shopkeepers there accepted her ideas and subsequently most major supermarkets in the UK have followed suit.
Thank goodness non recyclable plastic shopping bags are on the way out and let’s hope hemp or paperwill replace such synthetic material. How many of us can remember the photograph in our newspapers on June 8, 1972 depicting the absolute cruelty of war inflicted on an innocent nine-year-old girl as she ran naked along a road near Trang Bong in Vietnam? She was very badly burnt by a napalm bomb. That lady now lives happily in North America. She was saved and treated with the use of a synthetic/nylon based pressure garment especially devised by an Illinois company for victims so burned in that war.
Thank goodness for the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which banned the use of napalm on civilians. Some 10 years later, my son as an eight-month-old child pulled a kettle of boiling hot water over him destroying 15 per cent of his upper torso skin. He lived in a similar pressure garment for two and a half years and was thus saved by a young physiotherapist who had learned of the napalmvictim’s garment. What a fantastic by product of war.
Today some 27 years later, he is an international hockey player, recently gaining his 50th Senior Hockey cap for Wales versus no other team than Malaysia in the World Cup Qualifying Championships in New Zealand. Suffice to say Malaysia won by one goal!
We have read in recent editions of The Borneo Post articles highlighting prosthetic limb designs and a new tongue sensor device for those blinded and badly damaged by IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whilst there is a tragic loss of life in any war, those killed will never realise that because of their sacrifice much scientific progress has been made. The ravages of war have left marks on humans and the natural world.
Next week, I shall focus on more subtle meteorological advances through several wars, which few realise or indeed know little about but affect us all today.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

First sighting of Baff-Banded Rail in Sarawak.

Hi all,
 Our birding trip to Chupak last Sunday in conjuction with the World Migratory Bird Day yielded an interesting visitors.  Two were sighted and the attached was taken by Daniel Kong a week before during the recee to the site.  This appears to be the first sighting of Baff-Banded Rail in Sarawak.

Picture credit Daniel Kong

AND THEY’RE OFF: European and Far Eastern Curlews fly to their feeding grounds.

By Ronald Orenstein
LAST year, as I left Sarawak for my home in Canada, I wrote in thesundaypost of the pleasures to be had watching tropical birds in the gardens of Kuching.
Now that I am back again, I wanted to call first on some other visitors from high attitudes before they too returned to their homes in the north.
Two weeks ago, I joined my friend Anthony Wong and members of the Bird Group of the Malaysian Nature Society (Kuching Branch) on a morning excursion to the Sejingkat Ash Ponds near Bako. Our targets were waders — shorebirds, as we call them in North America — waiting in the ponds for the tide to drop in Buntal Bay, exposing the sandbars where they would spend the day feeding.
Though a few waders do nest here in Borneo, those we sought at the ash ponds were visitors: birds that breed in the high Arctic and feed on the insect larvae that swarm in the tundra ponds during their brief emergence from the grip of winter. For many of them, Borneo was not even the endpoint of their southward migration, but only a way station on the flight path to their wintering grounds in Australia or New Zealand.
WAITING FOR FOOD: The Bar-tailed Godwit. — Photos by Sia Sie Kai

Mid-April is late in the winter wader season, and Anthony was worried, as we drove out to the ponds, that the birds we hoped to see might already have departed. Certainly, many already had, particularly adult birds, freshly moulted into breeding plumage, rushing northwards to stake out prime territories or to claim mates — one mate orseveral, selected either by the male or the female, depending on the species — before their rivals. At best, we were hoping for young birds whose chance of breeding, even if they arrived home early, was probably slight. And there, fortunately, they were: hundreds of them, waiting quietly for something in their internal clocks to tell them that the tide had turned and their day of feeding could begin. Waders are not, by and large, colourful birds, and identifying them — usually down the barrel of a telescope, because they can be shy and may ‘spook’ easily — is usually a matter of judging size and shape.
Thus, among a cluster of crisply-mottled gray-and- white birds with long pale olive legs, where larger ones with heavy green and black bills — Common Greenshanks — amid packs of slightly smaller birds with thin, straight bills like sewing needles — Marsh Sandpipers.Among them were still smaller Terek Sandpipers, a mostly Asian speciality, with short orange-yellow legs and long bills that curved strikingly upwards at the tip. In the neighbouring pond were birds whose bills curved the opposite way, downwards: Whimbrels, and their larger relatives,European and Far Eastern Curlews, with impossibly long bills whose delicately sensitive tips could pluck up an insect or tiny crustacean with the precision of a surgeon’s forceps.
By size, leg length, and bill length and shape, the eight species of waders we saw that day partitioned their feeding grounds. Some staked out the shallow nears shore, while others waded in deeper water. Some plucked food from the surface, while others probed beneath the wet sand. The shifting sandbars of Buntal Bay provide them with such a rich bounty of food that BirdlifeInternational declared Bako- Buntal Bay to be an Important Bird Area (IBA) — a place of global significance, whose protection is necessary to the waders and other birds that visit it.
After a few hours watching the birds, we saw them suddenly rise together, in shrill piping flocks, responding at last to the bay’s unseen signal. They circled the ponds over us, calling before flying off to find the food they needed to fuel their long voyage north, and I thought, as I watched them go, how good it was to be back in Sarawak.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Garden Birdwatch surfey Workshop at SBC

90% school 10% tour guides, press and public. So far we hv filled the
auditorium 270 pax according 2 my staff.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Save migratory birds in crisis – every species counts!

The United Nations declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB).

This is an appreciation of the value of biodiversity for our lives. However, it is not only a celebration, but also an invitation to take action to safeguard the variety of life on earth. Our planet’s biological diversity is very rich and amazing. It is the result of billions of years of evolution and forms the complex web of life of which we are part and upon which we totally depend. Humankind relies on this diversity, because it provides us with food, fuel, medicine and other essentials which we need every day.
Regardless of that, species are disappearing because of human activities and there are a lot of species that are in danger of becoming extinct. The current rate of extinction is a thousand times faster than the natural one. Normally, only one bird per century becomes extinct, but during the last thirty years 21 bird species disappeared. At the moment 192 birds are classified as Critically Endangered as a result of habitat loss, hunting, pollution, climate change, human disturbance and other reasons. These threats are directly or indirectly man-made. Without immediate action, many of these endangered species will not be here in a few years time. The Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus), for example, is expected to become extinct within a human generation due to fisheries by-catch. And there are several other species which are extremely rare. The population size of Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris), New Zealand Storm-petrel (Oceanites maorianus) as well as Rueck’s Blue-flycatcher (Cyornis ruckii) is under 50 individuals.
Therefore in 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, World Migratory Bird Day focuses on Globally Threatened Migratory Birds and especially on those thirty-one migratory bird species, which are classified as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List. These are birds, which face extinction. Migratory birds rely on several different habitats; they need different locations for breeding and raising their young, and for feeding. Some of them migrate up to thousands of kilometers to find suitable areas and cross many different habitats, regardless of any political borders. Because birds are found nearly everywhere and, they serve as vital indicators of distribution and state of biodiversity and the ecosystems they inhabit. If a bird species becomes threatened by extinction it is a clear sign that the conditions of, or the ecosystem itself, have changed and that other species that depend on this ecosystem may be affected as well. 


DATE                      :9 May 2010 (Sunday)   
TIME                        :7.15am – 10.00am 
WHERE TO MEET :Taman Rekresis Tapah (Town Park)
Please be there by 7.15am sharp 

In conjunction with World Migratory Bird Day, MNS Kuching Branch Bird Group will be organizing a bird watching trip to Kg. Chupak on 9 May 2010 (Sunday). 
One of the nearest and most extensive rice fields around Kuching area, Kg. Chupak/Skudup attract great number of migratory and wetland birds.A number of interesting sightings have come out of the area including Sand Martin (1st record for Borneo for nearly a century), Greater Painted-Snipe (1st for Sarawak), Red-necked Phalarope, Blue-breasted Quail, Black-winged Stilt and Chinese Pond Heron. 
During last weekend visit by one of our members, it was found that there are still quite a number of migratory birds there.  So why not come over to join us for a fun Sunday as we celebrate World Migratory Bird Day with people around the world on the 8-9 May 2010.

HOW TO GET THERE  Drive up the Kuching/Serian road, passing Siburan town, 18 mils (Jong’s Crocodile Farm) and Beratok town, 22 miles (limestone quarry is opposite the town).  Drive further along the road for 2 more miles and you will pass a Shell petrol station on your left.  Tapah town is just a kilometer along the road from Shell station.  So slow down!  Turn into Tapah town and meet at the road side in front of Taman Rekresis Tapah (Town Park) which is next to the Tapah Chinese Primary School.  Please be there by 7.15am sharp. Those who are late will have to find their way to Chupak themselves.

TO BRING Please bring along your binocular, bird guides, pocket-size note pad, hat, sun block and umbrella.  Please also remember to wear dull-coloured clothes.
FEES MNS Members and Students: FREE.  Non Members: RM5/-

 For registration please contact Susan Teal at 012-8551799  or sueteal2006@gmail.com
For more information about the trip please contact Anthony Wong at 013-8333163 (antwong@sareaga.com)

Monday, May 3, 2010

STA Tea Talk "Planted Forests in Sarawak"

STA will be organizing a STA Tea Talk. Details as follow :

Topic               :           Planted Forests in Sarawak

                                    1st Speaker : Tuan Haji Mohd Kassim Wasli, Assistant Director, Forestry Department, Sarawak

                                    2nd Speaker : Mr Julaihi Abdullah, Research Manager, Sarawak Forestry Corporation

                                    3rd Speaker : Mr Elbson Marajan, Manager (Certification and Quality Assurance), Sarawak Planted Forest Sdn Bhd

Date                :           Saturday, 8 May 2010
Venue              :           Wisma STA, Level 12, Kuching
Time                :           9.30 ~ 10.00 am (Registration),
                                    10.00 ~ 11.30am (STA Tea Talk plus light Refreshment)

There will be 3 speakers in this Tea Talk.  The first speaker will cover policy, legal aspects of and the rational for planted forests in the State of Sarawak, including tree species and areas planted to date.  The second speaker will introduce the scope of Research and Development programmes carried out by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation in support of the establishment of planted forests such as site-species matching, tree improvement, pests and diseases control and seed technology, including wood processing, wood properties and utilization.  The third speaker, will talk about the activities of Sarawak Planted Forests Sdn Bhd, a government-owned company responsible for the planted forests project in Samarakan, Bintulu, Sarawak.

Come and attend this Talk to know more about the importance of planted forests in Sarawak.

Entrance is free. However, due to logistics, entrance will be restricted to only those who have registered.  To register, kindly call STA at 082-332 222 latest by Thursday, 6 May 2010.
Thank you.

Have a nice day !
STA Secretariat Kuching
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FAX     :           082-487 888 or 487 999

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